Heavy Dreams: Pushing Interactive Narrative
November 30, 2009 Page 4 of 4
In a recent design column in Game Developer, the author spoke about managing player expectations. If the world looks real, a player will see something and feel like they should be able to interact with it. How far can you really go?
To re-use the example, if there's a slide in a playground, and the player thinks, "Oh, well it's a slide; I should be able to slide down it." Perhaps it doesn't make sense for the character to do it, but the player may feel like, in this realistic world, they should be able to do that sort of thing. How can you deal with that?
GdF: The important thing for us is context. The second thing is, whatever in the environment within the context should be interactive, then it's interactive. People were quite surprised, I think, to see how interactive Heavy Rain is and the fact that you can really interact with most of the objects that are there.
I mean, if there's a television you can switch it on and look at it. A radio, same thing. Objects, books, newspapers, doors -- if there are doors, you can open them, you can venture into different environments.
Even if it is not driving the story as such, but of course we believe it is extremely important for people to feel immersed in the environment. However, players shouldn't expect to go against the context.
If your character is on a playground and there is a slide, but it would make absolutely no sense for the player now to slide down the slide, then it is not interactive because it simply makes no sense. That's the limit that we have, but we try to minimize those moments where you eventually could think of interacting with something... most of the time, you can.
In Fallout 3 -- I don't know if you've played it -- you come out of this Vault in the beginning of the game, and you're searching for your dad. But if you want -- and this is what most people do -- you can spend hours and hours and hours playing all these sidequests, just helping somebody research a book or going and defeating 12 monsters of a certain type or something like that.
If you care so much about finding your dad, you're probably not going to do these things. It's good the options are there, but, ultimately, if someone were really analyzing it, it could undermine the main narrative. Balancing player expectation and their desire for freedom with the desire to push the narrative proper forward seems like a very tough thing to do, so I guess we'll see.
GdF: It is a tough thing to do, but again, it's always the same thing; it depends on what the expectation is on the game and what we as designers define is the experience that we are offering. If you want to drive cars and run and shoot people, then you shouldn't buy Heavy Rain; this is not a game for you. If you want to be the hero of a grand thriller, if you're looking for something that is meaningful, then you're up for the Heavy Rain experience.
What kind of camera are you using? It's not clear to me based on what I've seen.
GdF: It's cinematic cameras, because at any point in the game you always have two cameras tracking you. We didn't want to have a camera in the back or first-person; we wanted to give a very cinematic feel to the game, and so we're using this system that works pretty nicely, actually. It looks far better, if you ask me.
In addition to the artistic implications, it also seems that, in terms of the hardware, if you can control the viewpoint then you can also increase the number of polygons and things running on the SPUs on the screen at that time. Is that something that you are employing?
GdF: Absolutely not, actually. The whole game is being rendered in real time all the time, and we actually have a camera team that is working in post-production to set all the different cameras -- but everything's running. So we're not using the camera direction to help us render more polygons. No.
How large is the camera team?
GdF: We have four people working on the cameras, which is quite a big team.
GdF: Every moment in the game, someone thought of the two camera angles. I think to a certain degree it's giving perspective; it characterizes the playable characters even more.
Do these people come from the game industry, or did you also consult film?
GdF: No, most of them come from the movie industry. They have movie experience; this is really what you want.
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